1969 to 2019

By Sheila Skene

In being asked if I could compile a short history of Canadian Dressage Owners and Riders Association (CADORA) in this 50th anniversary of its inception, my initial thought was that our long-time President Don Barnes had said it all in our Spring e-blast, part of which is included later. On reflection though, his view was from Ontario, which is quite a different perspective than those of us here in the West. It is true that the overall structure of the national organization was created in 1969; it is also true that it was visionary to plan for an umbrella national organization spreading to provincial groups to represent and develop membership within local area groups across the country.

For someone returning home to Victoria, British Columbia in 1976 and immediately looking for a horse to ride, I learned that a new club had been formed here that was specifically for dressage, which was in its infancy back then. The following year I became a member of Victoria Saanich CADORA and am now one of the “old-timers,” having been involved in just about every aspect of the club through all these years. Our first local Area Representative was Harriet Gordon, ably assisted by Margot Parker, Daphne Barnes, and Dawn Ruthven, and other well-known equestrians of the time, many of whom still remain active in our dressage community. The club grew by leaps and bounds. We ran many clinics and two large Recognised (Gold) shows annually, one of which on alternate years was the BC Dressage Championships that we shared biannually with the Lower Mainland (Vancouver). Amazingly, there were five CADORA clubs here on Vancouver Island at one point. We had a circuit of competitions up and down the Island that all keen dressage enthusiasts attended with or without their horses.

Just about every dressage competition here in BC was run by one of the 12 CADORA clubs with its volunteers and CADORA BC. CADORA Inc. in its glory years was the domestic arm of CEF (now Equestrian Canada) with more than 2,000 members. When a Canadian National Dressage Championship was created at different venues across the country, it was the CADORA provincial organizations and the clubs within them that organized the competitions.

If you’re thinking I sound excited about those years, you are right – it was an inspiring time, and we travelled to each other’s competitions much more than we do today – it wasn’t Camelot, but it was really good fun. 

When governmental requirements changed so that sport bodies needed to have more governance over their structure, Dressage Canada was formed in 2001 to become the dressage voice for Equine Canada (Equestrian Canada), and the completely volunteer-driven CADORA was no longer required to organize competitions or other domestic programs. Since then, the environment has changed dramatically with most larger competitions being professionally managed and more importantly, in order to compete in EC competitions, competitors must be a member of EC as well as a member of their Provincial or Territorial Sport Organization, but they don’t have to be a member of CADORA unless they choose to be. The former club structure in many areas no longer exists.

CADORA Inc. President Don Barnes was in attendance at the forming of CADORA back in 1969, and these are his remembrances as excerpted from our 2019 Spring e-blast:

“It seems like just yesterday that a small group of dressage enthusiasts was gathered outside the Rothmans caravan that was positioned on a promontory at Christilot Hansen-Boylen’s ‘Bonacres’ farm in Sharon, ON. [Rothmans was the major sponsor of this – the Eastern Canadian Dressage Championships.] How well I remember those white-gloved damsels in their diaphanous dresses parading around with open packages of cigarettes on small silver trays, intoning, “Would you care for a Rothman’s, king-size?” But not only was this the jump of the sport into the future of the Canadian dressage scene, it was also the launch of a new organization that would spread its arms across the country – the Canadian Dressage Owners and Riders Association – CADORA. That was 1969. (The riders showing at this groundbreaking competition were Christilot, Lorraine Stubbs, Cindy Neale [Ishoy], and a whole lot of others.) I’m not sure if anyone then expected CADORA to endure past its initial year of operation. But endure it did – from running “Recognized” (Gold) competitions to organizing the Canadian National Dressage Championships (as a two, three, or four-divisional extravaganza), moving foreign and local judges across the country. It was a tricky proposition making sure that all the pieces fell into place – venues, officials, consecutive weekends – not to mention acquiring the tireless volunteers upon whose backs this sport has existed since its inception. I often ask myself why they did it, and I always come up with the same answer – love of the sport (but I think that can be applied to almost everyone over the last 50 years). 

Fifty is a milestone by any stretch of the imagination, but to pay homage to all the key people – by name – who were instrumental in the establishment and continuation of CADORA is risky (I might forget someone!), so I won’t mention anybody at all. You know who you are. I will issue one HUGE THANK YOU to all of you for your dedication, commitment, and belief in CADORA as the organization that has, for the last 50 years, continued to meet its members’ needs locally, provincially (in Ontario) and nationally.

Did you happen to notice anything a bit different about CADORA? I’m sure you did. As we’re continuing our journey into the next 50 years, we thought it appropriate to do a bit of rebranding, which is why the logo that served us so well for the first 50 years has been ‘retired’ in favour of the new logo you see here and elsewhere.”

CADORA now is much smaller than in the past, but small can be mighty and our loyal individual and area group members continue to enjoy the awards, bursaries, annual test Omnibus, and regular e-blasts. Most importantly, we are so lucky to have been able to host annual Stephen Clarke “Build a Better Dressage Horse” clinics for the last 12 years and again this year in both Manitoba and BC on the weekends of October 18-20 and 26-27 respectively.

For more information, please visit the CADORA website or the CADORA Facebook page

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